Seagrass Management

Oxygen bubbling in 4 ft. waters northeast off Fishers Island. Snorkeling & Video: Soren Dahl, NYS Seagrass Coordinator, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Specialist

On Common Ground: Exploring Options for Collaborative Care & Management of Seagrass Meadows at Fishers Island, by Chantal Collier

Seagrass meadows were once abundant throughout the bays and harbors of the Sound, providing food, shelter and nurseries for thousands of ocean animals, along with plentiful seafood and a resource for human recreation and inspiration. Today – decimated by disease and other stressors – less than 10 percent of their historic acreage remains and nearly all of the seagrass left in the New York waters of the Sound are located around Fishers Island. This habitat is in good condition, but is at risk of decline – from nitrogen pollution (from septic systems and fertilizer use), physical damage (from vessel anchors, moorings, propeller scars, and fishing gear), and warming seas – if nothing is done to protect it.

Communities around Long Island Sound depend upon the benefits the Sound provides. From boating and plentiful seafood to educational opportunities and a source for human inspiration, these ecosystem services have sustained our local economy and way of life for generations. Experience from around the world shows that managing marine resources to safeguard these benefits works best when communities are involved in taking care of local marine habitats and wildlife.

From Hawaii to Florida, several pioneering communities and state agencies have been working together to share management of their local marine areas. What can we learn from the experiences of the communities and governments engaged in these collaborative partnerships? From 2015 to 2016, Chantal Collier, Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Long Island Sound Program, led a study at Duke University to explore this question and its relationship to the 2012 New York state law that requires the Department of Environmental Conservation (NY DEC) to designate Seagrass Management Areas and consult with community members to protect, manage and restore seagrass habitat.

Chantal Collier

In August 2016, Ms. Collier presented the findings from her research, including options for a collaborative management approach derived from Fishers Island community members’ perspectives, values, hopes and concerns regarding local marine resources, to members of the island community and representatives from the NY DEC. Download Ms. Collier’s complete study: http://hdl.handle.net/10161/11884

Related Articles by The Nature Conservancy:

“Taking to the Skies to Help the Seas”
Aerial Surveys of Boating Activities Help Assess Threats to Seagrass as part of Comprehensive Approach to Its Protection in Long Island Sound.

“Protecting Seagrass in Long Island Sound”
We Know Why a Critical Habitat is in Decline; Now We’re Trying to Save It.

“A Sound Plan for the Future”
Q&A with Chantal Collier, Long Island Sound Program Director.

“Reducing Nitrogen Pollution in the Bays and Estuaries of Long Island Sound”
In focus: the Saugatuck River Watershed and New London County